Looking back at when Bill Walton called a game with Jason Benetti

May 28th, 2024

Basketball Hall of Famer and sports broadcasting icon Bill Walton passed away at the age of 71 on Monday. While Walton was known for his skills as both a basketball player and broadcaster, he also had a history with baseball.

On Aug. 16, 2019, Walton joined then-White Sox play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti to call Chicago's game in Anaheim. With regular TV color commentator Steve Stone getting the series off, Walton jumped at the opportunity to join the White Sox booth and add to his already impressive resume.

Having grown up and spending most of his life in San Diego, Walton had no shortage of legendary baseball broadcasters he listened to throughout his life.

“I realize what a sacrosanct position it is, and so many of my heroes have had this position,” Walton told MLB.com that night. “Our hometown of San Diego, [had] Jerry Coleman and Ted Leitner and Dick Enberg. And Southern California, to have Vin Scully. … I’m a fan. I’m a fan of life. And I’m alive. So I’m gonna give it everything I have, I’m gonna try my best.”

If you ever had the privilege of listening to Walton call a basketball game, it wasn't surprising to hear him make a handful of entertaining -- if not unorthodox -- calls during the White Sox's 7-2 win over the Angels. Among the many standout calls were:

  • “What a fantastic turn of events if you love the White Sox, and I’m falling in love by the breath," Walton said just before James McCann's grand slam in the eighth inning.
  • “He’s not a Bummer. He’s a meteor. He’s an asteroid soaring through the universe," said Walton in reference to left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer.
  • "That’s Trout? Swimming upstream, avoiding all the flies, and sending one ricocheting through the universe," Walton said after Mike Trout's home run.

Walton's experience extended beyond the broadcast booth that night. At the request of then-White Sox manager Rick Renteria, Walton visited the clubhouse prior to the game to offer insight and wisdom. For that night's starter and winning pitcher Lucas Giolito, the pep talk proved to be helpful.

“It was a great speech,” said Giolito. “Talking about his experience, things he’s learned, what it takes to be a champion. I was definitely all ears, I was listening to that. It kind of gave me a little fuel for the game, absolutely."

The timing of Walton calling this game was appropriate as well. A lifelong fan of rock-n-roll -- specifically the band The Grateful Dead -- Walton called the game during '70s weekend at Angel Stadium. Fittingly, while attendees of the game received promotional Angels tie-dye shirts, Walton and Benetti sported White Sox tie-dye shirts of their own.

“It’s the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, and it’s tie-dye night here at Angel Stadium,” said Walton. “That is the way my life works. I’m just the luckiest guy in the world.”

Walton's visit to the Angel Stadium broadcast booth was hardly his first time making a very public appearance at a Major League ballpark. Just the week before, Walton uncorked an errant first pitch before a game for his hometown Padres.

Walton's exuberance and passion for broadcasting will undoubtedly be missed. Luckily for the baseball community, we got to see Walton at his best on one special night in 2019.